Meditation expert Dawn Lorentz, whose corporate wellness company Self Reboot helps large companies’ employees learn breathing and yoga to reduce stress, told Salon recently that starting the new year off with a stress-identifying “body scan” is a healthier beginning to 2017. “The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding," she said. “But, you have a lot more control than you might think. Stress management is all about taking charge: of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. No matter how stressful your life seems, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and regain control.”
Giving yourself tools to manage stress from the outset of the year will make it easier to let things go and identify and then address unhealthy patterns. Stress is one of the top three health care costs in the U.S. (behind heart disease and cancer), and stress-related problems account for up to 80 percent of visits to the doctor. Only 3 percent of doctors routinely talk with their patients about how to reduce stress, said a 2012 study by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the Archives of Internal Medicine.“ Almost half of Americans report an increase in psychological stress over the past five years,” according to lead author, Dr. Aditi Nerurkar. “Stress is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows it’s there, but physicians rarely talk to patients about it.” In fact, stress management counseling is last, behind counseling for nutrition, exercise, weight loss and smoking.
Lorentz explained that the most common areas people feel signs of stress are in the jaw (resulting in clenching, grinding teeth during sleep, and TMJ, or temporomandibular joint pain), the head (tension headaches, migraines), the neck and shoulders, stomach (reflux, peptic ulcers, IBS, and even food allergies) and lower back. "If you're feeling headaches, or your jaw hurts, you're likely going through a stressful time," she says.
Major body control mechanisms respond to stress in different ways, from the nervous system’s “fight or flight” response release of adrenaline and cortisol to the endocrine system’s release of stress hormones triggering the liver to produce more blood sugar, to give you that kick of energy in the moment of perceived danger. Here is the start of your 2017 muffin-top (it’s not just all the holiday treats you ate) — and worse, excess blood sugar can lead to diabetes. Other dangers of advanced stress involve the cardiovascular and immune system, digestive system and musculoskeletal system.
Lorentz advocates thriving in 2017 by working towards greater productivity in life and work through exercise, turning attention to proper nutrition, and making sure you are mentally healthy and calm. "Instead of looking at your life in the negative, it's better to look at things in a positive way," she says.